Wadlington v. Werlich

Decision Date07 April 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 17-cv-449-SMY
PartiesEUKA WADLINGTON, # 10296-424, Petitioner, v. T.G. WERLICH, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Illinois

YANDLE, District Judge:

Petitioner Euka Wadlington, who is currently incarcerated at FCI-Greenville, Illinois, filed this pro se action, seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. 1). After initiating the case, Wadlington obtained counsel (Goodman), who supplemented the record and filed an "Amended Petition" which the Court found presented additional arguments and authority in support of the original Petition but did not replace or supersede the original Petition (See Docs. 34 and 35). Invoking Mathis v. United States, — U.S. —, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016) and United States v. Elder, 900 F.3d 491 (7th Cir. 2018), Wadlington challenges his career-offender-enhanced sentence imposed in the Southern District of Iowa. The Court conducted a hearing on the record on March 4, 2020.1 For the reasons discussed below, the Petition for habeas corpus relief shall be granted.

Relevant Facts and Procedural History
Trial Court Proceedings

Following a 1999 jury trial, Wadlington was convicted of two offenses: (Count 1)conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and cocaine base (the "conspiracy" count), and (Count 7) attempted distribution of cocaine (the "attempt" count), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1).2 United States v. Wadlington, Case No. 98-CR-242 (S.D. Iowa); 233 F.3d 1067, 1072 (8th Cir. 2000). Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, the Government notified Wadlington that his two Illinois state court convictions would increase his federal sentence to mandatory life: (1) Cook County Case No. 88-cr-1839101, for delivery/manufacture of a controlled substance; and (2) Cook County Case No. 90-cr-1154801, for delivery and manufacture3 of a controlled substance. In the 1988 case, Wadlington was convicted under Illinois Revised Statutes Ch. 56 1/2, ¶ 1401, later codified at 720 ILCS 570/401. (Doc. 15, pp. 2, 10-11; Doc. 15-4, pp. 2, 4-5). The conviction in the 1990 case was pursuant to Illinois Revised Statutes Ch. 56 1/2, ¶ 1402, now found at 720 ILCS 570/402. (Doc. 15-5, pp. 1-2).

Based upon the two prior state convictions, Wadlington was subject to a statutory minimum sentence of life for the conspiracy count and a statutory minimum of 10 years to life on the attempt count. (Presentence Report ("PSR"), Doc. 16-1, p. 39; Doc. 15, p. 7). Wadlington's sentence range under the United States Sentencing Guidelines ("USSG") was calculated at life based on a Total Offense Level of 46 and Criminal History Category of VI under USSG § 5A (increased from category V pursuant to the career offender guideline in USSG § 4B1.1). (PSR, Doc. 16-1, pp. 30, 39, 46; Doc. 15, pp. 5-7). He was sentenced to life imprisonment on both Counts to be served concurrently on August 5, 1999. United States v. Wadlington, Case No. 98-CR-242 (S.D. Iowa);233 F.3d 1067, 1073 (8th Cir. 2000).

Appeal and Section 2255 Motion

Wadlington raised six grounds in his direct appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. United States v. Wadlington, 233 F.3d 1067 (8th Cir. 2000). Wadlington, 233 F.3d at 1081-82. The Eighth Circuit affirmed Wadlington's conviction and sentence, over a dissent.

In 2005, Wadlington sought relief through a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, arguing that new evidence showed he was actually innocent, and that his indictment ran afoul of Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) because it failed to specify the drug amount in connection with his charges. Wadlington v. United States, 428 F.3d 779, 784 (8th Cir. 2005) (affirming the denial of Wadlington's § 2255 motion). Reviewing for plain error, the Eighth Circuit agreed that Wadlington's sentence on the conspiracy count violated the edicts of Apprendi. It also found, however, that Wadlington was not entitled to resentencing because the district court's error did not "seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of the judicial proceedings[.]" Wadlington, 428 F.3d at 786. Specifically, the court first concluded that "the evidence presented at trial overwhelmingly supported the district court's adoption of the presentence investigation report's conclusion" that the conspiracy offense involved more than 18 kilograms of cocaine. Wadlington, 428 F.3d at 785-86. It further concluded that Wadlington was still subject to a life sentence on the attempted-distribution count (based on the then-mandatory sentencing guidelines) and that the sentence would remain unchanged.4 Id.

Applicable Legal Standards

Generally, petitions for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 may not be employed to raise claims of legal error in conviction or sentencing; they may only challenge the execution of a sentence. See Valona v. United States, 138 F.3d 693, 694 (7th Cir. 1998). Thus, aside from the direct appeal process, a prisoner who has been convicted in federal court is generally limited to challenging his conviction and sentence by bringing a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the court which sentenced him. See Kramer v. Olson, 347 F.3d 214, 217 (7th Cir. 2003). Additionally, he may not file a "second or successive" § 2255 motion unless a panel of the appropriate court of appeals certifies that such motion contains either 1) newly discovered evidence "sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder would have found the movant guilty of the offense," or 2) "a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h).

However, under very limited circumstances, a prisoner may challenge his federal conviction or sentence under § 2241. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) contains a "savings clause" which authorizes a federal prisoner to file a § 2241 petition where the remedy under § 2255 is "inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). See United States v. Prevatte, 300 F.3d 792, 798-99 (7th Cir. 2002). "A procedure for postconviction relief can be fairly termed inadequate when it is so configured as to deny a convicted defendant any opportunity for judicial rectification of so fundamental a defect in his conviction as having been imprisoned for a nonexistent offense." In re Davenport, 147 F.3d 605, 611 (7th Cir. 1998).5

A petitioner must meet three conditions in order to trigger the savings clause. First, he must show that he relies on a case of new statutory interpretation rather than a constitutional case. Second, he must show that he relies on a decision that he could not have invoked in his first § 2255 motion and that case must apply retroactively. Lastly, he must demonstrate that there has been a "fundamental defect" in his conviction or sentence that is grave enough to be deemed a miscarriage of justice. Brown v. Caraway, 719 F.3d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 2013). See also Chazen v. Marske, 938 F.3d 851, 856 (7th Cir. 2019); Brown v. Rios, 696 F3d 638, 640 (7th Cir. 2012). "[T]here must be some kind of structural problem with section 2255 before section 2241 becomes available. In other words, something more than a lack of success with a section 2255 motion must exist before the savings clause is satisfied." Webster v. Daniels, 784 F.3d 1123, 1136 (7th Cir. 2015).


In Mathis, the United States Supreme Court resolved a split among the circuits as to when a court may consult state charging or sentencing documents (known as the "modified categorical approach") to determine whether a previous conviction under an alternatively-phrased statute may qualify as a career-criminal predicate offense. The Mathis Court considered whether an Iowa burglary conviction was properly used to enhance a federal sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA") and held that only where the elements of the predicate offense match or are narrower than the elements of the "generic" offense (in Mathis' case, generic burglary) may the prior conviction be used as the basis for enhancing a federal sentence. Mathis, 136 S. Ct. at 2247. The Iowa statute in question identified several alternative locations where the burglary may take place, including a "building, structure, . . . land, water, or air vehicle." Id. at 2250. The court noted that the statute was "indivisible," describing a single crime with several possible modes, or"means," of commission, and concluded that because the generic offense of burglary is limited to unlawful entry into a "building or other structure" with intent to commit a crime, the Iowa statute was overbroad. Mathis, 136 S. Ct. at 2248, 2250 (quoting Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 598 (1990)). Mathis clarified that only if a statute is "divisible" - that is, it sets forth one or more elements of the offense in the alternative, each of which amounts to a distinct offense - may the modified categorical analysis be applied to determine which of the alternatives formed the basis for the conviction in question, and whether the elements of that crime match the elements of the generic offense. Thus, if an "indivisible" statute lists alternative factual means to satisfy a single element, and if the alternative means include conduct that sweeps more broadly than the generic crime, then a conviction under the statute may not be used as a career-offender predicate offense, even if the particular defendant's conduct was within the scope of the generic offense. Mathis, 136 S. Ct. at 2252 (sentencing court "cannot go beyond identifying the crime of conviction to explore the manner in which the defendant committed that offense"); Van Cannon v. United States, 890 F.3d 656, 663 (7th Cir. 2018) ("the modified categorical approach has no role to play" if the statute is indivisible).

Application of the 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) Savings Clause

As an initial matter, Respondent argues that Wadlington procedurally defaulted on his...

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